Diabetes treatment with insulin
Insulin is a hormone that treats diabetes by controlling the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood. When used as medication, it is derived from either pork (porcine) or is genetically made to be identical to human insulin. According to Diabetes UK, most people nowadays use human insulin and insulin analogues. However, a small number of people still use animal insulin because it works better for them.
People who may need insulin therapy include:
- People with type 1 diabetes (insulin is the only medication that can be used to control the increases in blood sugar that occur with the disease.)
- People with type 2 diabetes (insulin can be used alone or in combination with diabetes tablets.)
- Women with gestational diabetes. (Oral diabetes medications are not usually used for pregnant women.)
What are the types of insulin used for diabetes?
There are many forms of insulin used to treat diabetes. They are classified by how quickly they start to work and how long their effects last.
The types of insulin include:
- Short acting or soluble (taking effect within 15 minutes and lasting two to eight hours);
- Rapid-acting (taking effect within 30 to 60 minutes and lasting for two to five hours);
- Intermediate or medium-acting (taking effect in one to two hours and lasting up to 24 hours);
- Long-acting (taking effect in four to eight hours and lasting up to 30 hours);
- Pre-mixed (taking effect within 30 minutes and lasting up to 24 hours).
Your doctor will prescribe the insulin(s) that is (are) best for you. The strategy is to space your insulin doses throughout the day to enable your body to maintain your blood sugar levels within the normal range matching eating and activity patterns.
How is insulin given for diabetes?
Insulin for diabetes may be taken in many ways:
- Under the skin (subcutaneously)
- Into the muscle (intramuscularly)
- Transdermal (through the skin)
How is insulin injected?
Insulin can be injected using a needle and syringe, cartridge, or prefilled pen systems. Insulin pumps are also available.
Where on the body should insulin be injected?
Where you inject your insulin into your body may affect the timing of its benefit to you. The abdomen (stomach) has the fastest rate of absorption, followed by the arms, thighs, and buttocks. Absorption is also the most consistent in the abdomen.
Rotation (moving the site of the injection around) within the selected site of insulin injection is important to prevent the breakdown and scarring of fat tissue under the skin, a condition known as lipoatrophy. By rotating within the site selected rather than between multiple sites on the body, the absorption of insulin remains relatively constant.
Of course, in hospital, insulin may be given as an intravenous dose which gets more rapidly absorbed than either a dose given directly under the skin or in the muscle.